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Star players visiting communities for Road to Regions

By Troy Whittaker – NRL.com

Past NRL and current NRLW stars will visit regional communities across NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia this week as part of the NRL ‘Your Local Club’ Road to Regions program.

Following a tough 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drought and bushfires, the initiative aims to support the wellbeing of remote communities.

NRL ambassadors and NRLW players will host educational school programs, visit local rugby league clubs and participate in community events.

The areas selected have limited opportunity to engage with the elite men’s and women’s talent they see on television.

“The NRL ‘Your Local Club’ Road to Regions program is an important annual initiative that aims to support regional and remote communities and support rugby league’s growth,” said NRL head of participation and community, Luke Ellis.

Past NRL and current NRLW stars will visit regional communities across NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia this week as part of the NRL ‘Your Local Club’ Road to Regions program.

Following a tough 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drought and bushfires, the initiative aims to support the wellbeing of remote communities.

NRL ambassadors and NRLW players will host educational school programs, visit local rugby league clubs and participate in community events.

The areas selected have limited opportunity to engage with the elite men’s and women’s talent they see on television.

“The NRL ‘Your Local Club’ Road to Regions program is an important annual initiative that aims to support regional and remote communities and support rugby league’s growth,” said NRL head of participation and community, Luke Ellis.

Gower has previously been on NRL community trips to Wee Waa in 2013 and the Bega region last year to assist with bushfire recovery efforts, and immensely enjoyed the “rewarding” experiences.

“To be able to go out to western NSW and promote positive messages around wellbeing and things like that, I’ve got young kids myself so it’s something I look forward to doing and I think it’s extremely important,” said the one-time City representative, who is now Parramatta’s elite pathways wellbeing manager and career coach.

“I’m very passionate about wellbeing. The LeagueStars Inspire program is promoting wellbeing messages particularly at young kids, and I know COVID has added a whole layer of complexity when it comes to mental health with young people, adolescents and adults.

“To get out there and promote those really basic things that can impact positively on a person’s wellbeing is something I’m extremely passionate about, and also promoting the NRL and the good things that players do.

“A lot of young ladies, young girls play our game now, so to have Kezie Apps from the Dragons in the NRLW, it’s going to be fantastic to reach another audience of young females.

“And obviously Mitch Aubusson’s a 300-game vet, a premiership player, he’s done an amazing job in the NRL and he’s a good person and someone I know. I actually did the retirement day with him … I look forward to catching up and spreading the gospel of the NRL.”

Clubs NSW chairman, Dr George Peponis OAM, said his organisation was delighted to be aligned with Road to Regions.

“The NSW club industry pours tens of millions of dollars into elite and grassroots rugby league every year, making the sport more accessible to kids right across the state and helping to create a pathway for promising young players,” Peponis said.

“It’s been a tough 12 months for people in regional areas – they’ve battled through drought, bushfires and the effects of a global pandemic, so we are thrilled to be sponsoring the 2021 Road to Regions program and helping to bring some joy back into those communities.

“This initiative will see rugby league stars introducing their beloved game to kids in remote areas and teaching them about the importance of keeping active and looking after their mental health, which the club industry is very passionate about.

“Of course, outside of financial and in-kind support for rugby league, clubs also provide a social hub for fans of the game to come together in celebration of their favourite team. So, the relationship between clubs and the NRL is a very natural one, and one we look forward to fostering well into the future.”

The NRL ‘Your Local Clubs’ Road to Regions program is also supported by the NSW Government.